Lessons: Genesis 1:1-2:3, Ephesians 6:10-17, John 4:46-54
Hymns: LSB 790, 607, 619, 716, 923
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
When St. Paul wrote to the Church at Ephesus, he was in prison. His crime was proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ—the truth that Jesus is the Son of God who became Man, was crucified, died, rose from the dead on the third day, and ascended into Heaven who is seated at the right hand of God and will come again to judge the living and the dead.
It should not be considered criminal activity to state the truth, for the truth should always be welcome, yet the truth is often rejected and replaced with human opinion or downright lies.
The Church at Ephesus was dear to St. Paul. In Acts 20, he visits the pastors at Ephesus for a final time when he is on his third missionary journey. He delivers to them a great sermon in which he said, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). What this means is that St. Paul, during his three-year stay there, taught the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Upon Paul’s departure, the pastors wept for they would not see him again. Of course, they’ll see each other again at the Resurrection.
Later, Paul would write to them. This letter becomes part of the New Testament, known simply as Ephesians. In his closing words (as we heard in our Epistle), he instructs the Church to “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:10-11).
You see, the Devil is always seeking to destroy the good God has made. He is trying to tear people away from the blessings we have in Christ. He uses whatever tactics will resonate with those who are willing to give him an ear, be they half-truths, doubting words, downright lies, or destructive behavior. Since Satan was even willing to tempt Jesus, it should come as no surprise that he will be busy working on us—God’s children and even the pastors God sends.
God the Holy Spirit guided St. Peter to write, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9). For Satan is a destroyer, working to ruin the good God made.
Satan was created by God as a good angel during the days of Creation. But Satan rebelled against God’s authority and sought out sympathetic followers. To this day, Satan is attempting to turn people away from Christ by getting them to trust in themselves, forgo the gathering of believers (Heb. 10:25), assume all roads lead to Heaven, or replace God’s Word with scientific theories or assumptions of man.
Widely attacked today is the reading we heard from Genesis 1:1-2:3. Many who profess to be Christian do not believe the words recorded in this chapter. The majority of Christian churches in America teach Genesis 1 as a fable or a figurative story. For many decades—centuries even—many have been positing an old Earth and evolutionary theories that ultimately brought about the life on Earth as we know it today. The claim is that mankind is a result of mere chance and, as a result, humans serve little purpose. Many even claim that humans are destroying the planet and have overpopulated it—a stark contrast to our Lord’s command to be fruitful and multiply, fill the Earth, and subdue it (Gen. 1:28).
It should come to no surprise that mankind has developed ideas which contradict Scripture. The Devil, who questioned God in the Garden of Eden, saying to her, “Did God really say?”, is still at work. The Earth, our solar system, and all creation is the handiwork of God. While scientists are trying to determine the origin of life, we have the clear answer. I wonder why they aren’t trying to determine the origin of matter? Where do they think the basic elements on the Periodic Table came from? The modern theories claim that there was a lot of energy in the form of light that decayed into particles. So where did all that come from? Of course, we know. Before God spoke, there was darkness, and the Earth was without form and void (Gen. 1:2).
The ancient teachings inspired by God the Holy Spirit and recorded in Scripture are not only simple to understand, but also are true. What the Bible presents to us is also reasonable. God exists from eternity. He said, “Let there be light” and there was light. He spoke, and the stars, sun, and moon were created. He spoke, and our planet was made. God spoke, and there was dry ground and seas. God spoke, and there was plant life, birds, fish, and animals. God spoke and made everything—all in six days. And it was good. Amazing and true.
All three Persons of the Holy Trinity participated in Creation. God was in the beginning. The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the deep. That Christ was present is taught in John 1:1-5, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Jesus is the Word.
In contrast to this simplicity and this beautiful teaching, Satan is mocking us Christians, asking the same kind of question he asked Eve, “Did God really say He created everything in six days and rested on the seventh?” You don’t really believe that, do you? Won’t you listen to bugs I’ve planted into the ears of many, that there was energy and light that broke down into particles which formed matter that resulted in some big bang that created a single-cell organism that miraculously didn’t die but learned to somehow replicate itself and become more complex and eventually develop the ability to reproduce, grow limbs, digestive systems, eyes, ears, and so on?
And Satan, knowing that God has made mankind rather intelligent, had to work harder to fool man, so he helped man develop dating methods and theories that are fundamentally flawed. He has worked with man to destroy young-earth evidence and thwart as much scientific research that supports Biblical teachings as possible. Satan wants us not only to distrust the Biblical account of Creation, but also the genealogies reported in Genesis which help us get an estimate on the true age of the Earth. By adding them up, we know God created the world less than 10,000 years ago—a far cry from the billions that are posited by many in the scientific community. Christians are then bullied into a corner; told they must answer to how the Bible is correct and these ubiquitous scientific assumptions are wrong. Satan loves it when Christians acquiesce, cave, or cower is silence.
The burden of proof does not lie with those who believe the Bible; it really lies on those who have so boldly departed from the teaching of God. And for those who are filled with doubts concerning the Biblical narrative, there are many fine books and journals that uphold the Biblical creation account and the young earth, even from a scientific standpoint. If you’re interested, I’ll gladly show you those resources.
This all speaks volumes to why we need, in the 21st century, to continue to put on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. That way, we may stand firm, taking up the shield of faith to extinguish the flaming darts of the evil one. We may wield the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And we may fasten the belt of truth. In all of this, we may, as the Apostle teaches, to stand, withstand, stand, and stand. We take up the whole armor of God that we may not budge, but cling solely to God’s inspired, unchanging, inerrant, infallible Word of Truth. That way we are not tossed to-and-fro in the winds of modern thought, the shifting sand of human opinion, or the currents of trendy theological theories.
You’ve heard all the shifting science. Eggs have cholesterol and they’re bad. Now we know they’re good. Butter has saturated fats and is bad; better eat fully hydrogenated vegetable oil like Crisco or margarine. Now we know those are far worse. Just isolate for two weeks to flatten the curve. Well, let’s draw this out longer and still longer. Masks won’t help. Masks will help. You get the idea. All of this is presented in the name of science. And we’re told to believe science.
Instead of trusting in man and so-called science, we put our trust in the Lord, who created all things, even science. For our firm foundation is Christ, who seated in the heavens, made all things, and gives us the breastplate of righteousness and the gospel of peace. He alone died on the cross as the ransom payment for our sin. He alone loved us and gave Himself up for us so that we may join our Father in Heaven. He alone gives us access to eternal life with Him. He even forgives our sins of doubt and the temptation to displace God’s Word with ideas of man.
The nobleman of Capernaum in today’s Gospel was firmly planted in the Word. He traveled to Cana to ask Jesus to heal his son who was ill. He knew Jesus is the source of life—the life of all the living. And when Jesus said, “Go; your son will live” (John 4:49), the nobleman believed the infallible Word of Christ. He stood upon the promise of Christ, “Your son lives.” And his son lived, healed that very hour. We stand upon that same promise, that we may have life in Christ’s name. The God who created us is the God who redeems and sanctifies us. He gives us the strength to stand upon His Word of promise, even when the world does not. He will never fail us. And He will bring us to Himself in Heaven. Thanks be to God. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen